Japan’s Mixi unveils a mobile photo sharing app — but what’s so special about it?

The Plannah development team at Mixi's Innovation Center
The Plannah development team at Mixi’s Innovation Center

See the original story in Japanese.

Japanese social networking giant Mixi recently unveiled a mobile photo sharing app called Plannah. It is available for iOS in Japanese, English, and Korean, and an Android version will follow soon. The app is the forth production from the company’s innovation initiative, which has previously developed mobile app testing environment DeployGate and photobook printing service Nohana.

Plannah allows you to share photos with your friends as albums. It shows you photos on calendar and helps you remember where and what you are doing and with whom.

When I heard about the app for the first time, I had many questions – not about how to use the app or its concept, but rather, why bring out the app now when there are so many established alternatives?

Our readers may recall a similar mobile photo app called my365. It allows you to see photos in a calendar view, but there’s no feature for sharing photos with friends. Beyond Japan, New York-based startup Kaptur has acquired 250 million photos from 60 million users and fundraised $2 million — but it is still figuring out how to monetize. Other similar apps include Linea, Albumatic, Familio and Cluster — but none of these seem to be particularly hot according to my own research.

The team’s hypothesis is that the smartphone shift has reached not only tech-savvy users but the average consumer. One team member explained:

Since smartphones are now wide spread in the Japanese market, users now have more chances to shoot casual photos. But they are typically forced to use various apps for multiple purposes.

Some smartphone users these days have thousands of photos stores on their smartphones. For Mixi, if it can provide a service very much focused on sharing photos, it might cause a market disruption since the space currently has no dominant app right now.

We’re curious to see how they will fare moving forward. The team understands that the business model will be hard to nail down, but the key factor will be how long the app can ride the smartphone wave.